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Introducing The Ton Beau Quartet

The Ton Beau String Quartet will be performing along side David Braid and Florian Hoefner for Spectrum Music’s season finale “Early Expressions” on Thursday April 17, 2014. Shannon Graham asks them about their creative process, performing chamber jazz, and what’s next on the horizon for this emerging ensemble.

How did the Ton Beau Quartet come to be?

In 2010 were all studying at U of T and performing with each other in various combinations. We had casually discussed reading string quartets together for fun someday when we heard about a summer program that the St. Lawrence String Quartet runs at Stanford University. Eager for an opportunity to go to California (and work with the SLSQ), we put together an application and started rehearsing as a quartet. There must’ve been something in the air at Stanford, as we’ve been together since then!

Do the four of you work as a collective like the Spectrum composers?

How do you make creative decisions as a group? We try to find solutions that every member of the quartet is happy with. Compromise is definitely king in a chamber group!  But we’ve also learned that sometimes having patience and trusting in the process can have unexpected results. Over the time it takes to learn a new quartet, we always change our minds and find new ideas along the way.

Have you ever performed “Chamber Jazz” before? Tell us about your approach preparing all of this new music.

We haven’t specifically performed “Chamber Jazz” as a quartet before, but we have participated in collaborations involving various musical styles. While in Banff a couple of years ago, we collaborated with an amazing bluegrass band, the Kreuger Brothers, on an original composition for classical string quartet and bluegrass trio! It was such an unusual combination of instruments and styles, but it totally worked.  When we have some new music to prepare, we usually work on our individual parts first, and then try to read it through as a group. And then we go from there. It’s basically the same process for all of our music- from Beethoven to the Spectrum composers.

What are your expectations performing with jazz pianists David Braid and Florian Hoefner?

We’re pretty excited and curious– both are such amazing pianists and musicians and it’s all brand new music for everyone! Sarah remembers being introduced to David Braid’s music in a cello lesson with Shauna Rolston about ten years ago. It was a very long lesson that included very little cello, but lots of listening to great music- including some Nimmons’n’Braid and the David Braid Sextet!  There really is no substitute for rehearsing live music and watching it take shape in new and often unexpected directions!

After the concert on April 17th, what’s next for the quartet?

Our next big project is Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht with Caitlin Boyle and Rachel DeSoer of the Cecilia String Quartet! The concert is on Sunday, May 18 at 3pm at Gallery 345. We’re also looking forward to one of our summer projects- learning a new commission by Toronto composer William Rowson.

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